Saving the Best For Last
by Rick Olson
While the best walleye action of the season may have come and gone,
there's no good reason to put your ice fishing gear away, at least not
yet. Not when there's some monster perch
be had, and not when the best action of the hardwater period is upon us.
Icing big jumbo perch is what it's all about, and staying home simply
isn't an option. Staying home won't get your pole bent, and it won't
fill a bucket, and won't be all that much fun. Instead of hanging it up
you might as well get with the mid winter perch progam and see ifyou can
chase down and catch a batch of the green and yellow pot bellied pigs.
They say that timing is everything and with that being so there's no
better time than the present to get the program started. Now is when the
the big perch really get going, and when phenomenal catches are often
made. Also, the later in the season you go the more likely you are to
run into warmer and more comfortable weather conditions which makes
everything go a little easier, and don't let an early warm up keep you
off the ice.
Contrary to popular belief, those soaring air temperatures do not
have an immediate effect on the overall condition of the ice. It
actually takes an extended period of extremely warm air temps that last
through the night to start to break down the ice. Even with afternoon
air temps pushing fifty plus degrees, those highs are often reached for
a very short period of time. And if night time temps are dropping below
the freezing mark you get into a period of limbo that can keep ice
conditions in the safe zone for an extended period of time. The first
good thaw of the late ice season usually does little more than melt the
remaining snow cover, and makes getting around a lot easier.
However,when it does happen the melted snow will run into any open hole
or crack and can turn a small opening into something much larger and can
present a real danger, if you’re not careful.
Finding late season perch is not all that difficult fortunately, and
is another good reason for zeroing in on green and yellow gold. There is
a definite migration that late ice perch go through, and often leads
them back to many of the same places they started the ice fishing season
on. Good places to look include shallow rocky bars and reefs, as well as
sandy flats and drop offs. These areas can really load up with perch,
and can make for some fantastic action. However, the key to finding and
catching the largest of the species often lies further offshore, out in
the middle of nothing.
Basin areas can hold the lion's share of the biggest perch available
and they can be just about anywhere. To find them you better be
ready to make some major moves and prepared to drill a lot of holes.
Perch running the basin are usually holding tight to the bottom and you
can't really see them with your electronics, that is until you start
working a bait up off the bottom.
Small jigging baits like a #2 Jigging Rap tipped with a minnow head
or tail, or a waxie or two, are top picks for attracting and catching
jumbo perch. With a spoon you'll quickly know if you're in the right
neighborhood when fish start showing themselves on the depth finder. By
jigging a Rap a couple of feet off the bottom, fish will move in and
under your bait where they are easily seen. It really doesn't take that
much time to get fish to show themselves and ten minutes or so spent
without any evidence of life means it's time to head forthe next spot.
The next basin spot may be a hundred yards or more this way or that,
and which way you go will depend on how much area you have to look at
and how much time you have. You really can't put a finger on it and will
take some hard work and time wasted to get the job done, but it is a job
worth doing. The only way to accomplish the task is to drill, look, and
move, until you find what you're looking for.
When you do run into fish it would be a good idea to drill some extra
holes in the immediate area so you can make small moves when things slow
down. A hot hole can completely shut down, at least for a short time,
and a small move may keep you over active fish. You might also drill the
holes in pairs so you can work two holes at the same time, it you
Besides the Jigging Rap, a tiny jig tipped with a small minnow or
waxie suspended below a bobber can often trigger reluctant fish into
biting. The Rap will call them in and the suspended bait might be what
it takes to close the deal. Although perch will often move in tight to
the bottom, by setting the float so the bait rides a couple of feet up
it becomes more visible where active fish can see it and respond to it.
The fact is when you're on active perch you really don't have to be that
fussy about your presentation, but when things get tough it's the little
things that can make a difference.
Little things like using minnows or waxies, or jig size and color,
relying on a Jigging Rap or spoon, all can have an effect on how many
jumbos you're able to put on the ice. The key is being flexible and
willing to try different combinations until you find out what happens to
be working right now.